From Meeting Hollywood Stars to Frustrating Lou Holtz: A Look at Hogs’ 8 Westward Trips Before BYU

The Not-So-Great History of Hogs Football in the Wild West

Arkansas football vs Colorado State 2018
photo credit: Colorado State Athletics

For just the ninth time in school history, the Arkansas football team is heading far enough west to leave the Central Time Zone for a game.

The Razorbacks are set to take on BYU, an FBS independent preparing to join the Big 12 next year, in a non-conference matchup Saturday in Provo, Utah. Kickoff is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. CT on ESPN.

It will be a unique setting, as LaVell Edwards Stadium is known for the iconic view from its perch 4,649 feet above sea level. Head coach Sam Pittman said while he’s driven by the venue on recruiting trips, no one on the team has ever coached or played there. He’s looking forward to the experience.

“We showed our team yesterday a picture of their stadium and things,” Pittman said. “Beautiful area of the country. Just different for us and that gives you a little bit more motivation, things of that nature, a lot of times. It’s new. Of course, I don’t know that that will affect the way we play or not, but certainly excited to go out there.”

Unfortunately for them, the last time the Razorbacks ventured out west — and the only other time they’ve played at an elevation like they’ll experience Saturday — is still fresh on Arkansas football fans’ minds. That game, a disappointing 34-27 loss at Colorado State, dropped Arkansas’ record to 2-5-1 when playing west of the Central Time Zone.

Best of Arkansas Sports combed through a lot of digital archives to tell the story of each of those previous eight matchups…

Oct. 22, 1938 — at No. 6 Santa Clara — L, 21-6

Location: San Francisco, Calif.

Coming off a 42-6 shellacking of Texas at Quigley Stadium in Little Rock, the Razorbacks returned to Fayetteville with a 2-2 record and quickly hit the road again for a trip out west.

Leaving Monday evening, the Arkansas football team and band took a special train dubbed “The Arkansas Traveler” that essentially did a weeklong loop that went through Dallas (where they met up with a group of fans from Fort Smith and Little Rock, including Governor Carl Edward Bailey), El Paso, Phoenix and Los Angeles before arriving in San Francisco.

According to the Northwest Arkansas Times, the trip included a one-day stop in Los Angeles, where Bob Burns — a comedian and actor originally from Greenwood — hosted the group at Paramount studios. They also spent two days in San Francisco, allowing for a day of sightseeing ahead of the game at Kezar Stadium.

On the field, it was a highly anticipated matchup. Santa Clara was ranked No. 6 in the AP Poll and had outscored Stanford, Texas A&M and Arizona by a combined 56-0 in its first three games. It was the continuation of the Broncos’ recent dominance, as they were the two-time defending Sugar Bowl champions and riding a 13-game winning streak in which they posted 10 shutouts in 11 of their previous game, allowing only a safety during that span.

The Razorbacks, meanwhile, had a vaunted passing attack that some experts believed could cause Santa Clara problems. They also showed they could be effective on the ground, as Neal Martin scored three rushing touchdowns in the first half of the aforementioned blowout win over the Longhorns.

“They had everything figured out a week ago — how they would defend against Arkansas passes and have everything under control,” wrote Bill Tobitt in the Oakland Tribune on Oct. 17, 1938. “But, by the medium of telegraph and radio, two wonderful modern inventions, Shaw since as learned that there’s a guy named Martin playing for the Razorbacks. Martin didn’t figure in Buck’s earlier scout reports — but he sure plays a prominent part in them now.”

Sure enough, Arkansas ended up out-rushing the Broncos 187-77. It also gained more first downs (10-6) and forced more fumbles (7-4), according to the UP. The Razorbacks were more efficient through the air, as well, completing 7 of 23 passes, but those completions gained just 78 yards.

Because of those numbers, the game felt closer than the final 21-6 margin indicated. The difference, it seems, was that Santa Clara’s four completions — out of 22 attempts — gained a whopping 164 yards.

“From the opening kick-off until the final gun barked, it was the wildest, thrill-filled game seen here in this year,” wrote Russell Newland for the Associated Press. “Some 25,000 fans stayed until the last play as the ball changed hands time after time on intercepted passes, punts and recovered fumbles.”

Santa Clara scored its touchdowns in the first, second and fourth quarters. The Razorbacks’ lone score was the first touchdown the Broncos had allowed in quite some time. It came early in the second quarter when Kay Eakin connected with Ralph Atwood, who had to dive over a couple of Broncos to get in the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown.

The Razorbacks and their supporters then took a northern route back to Arkansas, traveling through Salt Lake City, Denver and Kansas City. They arrived back in Fayetteville early Tuesday morning.

Sept. 15, 1973 — at No. 1 USC — L, 17-0

Location: Los Angeles, Calif.

It was another 35 years before the Arkansas football team headed west again. As if playing the No. 6 team wasn’t enough, this time the Razorbacks had No. 1 on the docket. USC was coming off a national championship and hadn’t lost any of its previous 17 games, while Arkansas was in the midst of a down stretch under legendary coach Frank Broyles.

Understandably, the Razorbacks were tabbed 26-point underdogs. They came out strong, though, and actually out-played the favored Trojans for most of the first half.

A pair of failed field goals — one missed and one blocked — prevented Arkansas from taking advantage of the hot start and USC went on a 16-play, 79-yard drive to score a touchdown with less than a minute left until halftime. The score remained 7-0 until midway through the fourth quarter, when the Trojans kicked a field goal and added another touchdown to give themselves some cushion.

It was an admirable showing by an Arkansas team made up of a large chunk of freshmen and sophomores — a group that eventually helped the Razorbacks go 10-2 and win the Cotton Bowl two years later in 1975.

“This is the first, and probably the last time you’ll find the coaching staff, players and the fans happy about a 17-0 loss,” wrote Ron Russell in The Courier News the following Monday. “Kind of like a blind date with a nice face.”

“As everyone knows, the forecast called for Arkansas to get beat by 35-7, and, as is generally known, when a writer predicts that, he means 49-7, but is afraid to go that far even with the sure bet for fear of getting pie in the typewriter. Well, Arkansas fooled ‘em.”

One of a few older players on the team did provide a highlight, knocking out USC’s future All-American running back Anthony Davis, who managed to return and finish with 114 yards on 24 carries — most of which came in the final 10 minutes.

“Danny Rhodes, the ‘papa’ for these young defenders, should be an All-American this year, as it was figured he would when Broyles signed him out of Lake Jackson, Texas,” Russell wrote. “Rhodes nearly decapitated Anthony Davis, running full speed ahead after two yards at midfield in the second quarter.

“Davis left the game. And Bud Campbell said ‘He really hit him hard,’ but if you were only listening on the radio, you’ll never know how hard.”

Dec. 25, 1978 — vs. No. 15 UCLA — T, 10-10

Location: Tempe, Ariz. (Fiesta Bowl)

Fresh off a magical first season under Lou Holtz, Arkansas football had national championship aspirations in 1978. However, back-to-back losses to Texas and Houston in the middle of the season dashed those hopes and the Razorbacks ended up in the Fiesta Bowl, which was played at Arizona State through 2006.

Even with the two losses, Arkansas was still ranked No. 8 and favored by 7 points against No. 15 UCLA. It looked like the Razorbacks weren’t going to have any issues covering that spread, jumping out to a 10-0 halftime lead behind a touchdown run by Roland Sales and field goal by Ish Ordonez.

Arkansas failed to score again, though. UCLA kicker Pete Boermeester, who missed a 25-yarder in the first quarter, got the Bruins on the board when he booted a 41-yard field goal midway through the third. He also added the game-tying extra point following quarterback Steve Bukich’s 15-yard touchdown scamper midway through the fourth quarter.

Terry Donahue, who was in the third season of what proved to be a legendary career with the Bruins, said after the game that he didn’t go for two because he felt there was plenty of time left to score again. Instead, the two teams played to a stalemate. Both coaches advocated for overtime afterward, but it was nearly two decades before college football got it.

“There ought to be a sudden death playoff in bowl games,” Holtz told the UPI. “This is the second bowl I’ve participated in that ended in a tie and I feel the same way now (as) I did then.”

The offensive MVP of the game was UCLA running back James Owens, who ran for 121 yards on 17 carries, while Arkansas defensive tackle Jimmy Walker earned defensive MVP honors with 13 tackles, including five tackles for loss.

Ben Cowins — who was suspended for the Orange Bowl the previous year — was limited to 89 yards on 24 carries for the Razorbacks and Jerry Eckwood chipped in 44 yards on eight carries.

Dec. 22, 1985 — vs. Arizona State — W, 18-17

Location: San Diego, Calif. (Holiday Bowl)

Two days before the Holiday Bowl, the Razorbacks were at practice and head coach Ken Hatfield decided to put some pressure on his freshman kicker.

A walk-on from Fredonia, Kan., Kendall Trainor had taken over the placekicking duties following a disastrous 15-13 loss to Texas in which Greg Horne missed three field goals and now his first bowl game was just around the corner. Luckily for the Razorbacks, it was just a practice scenario.

“I said this is the last play of the game, Kendall, you’re going to win or lose it for the team,” Hatfield told the AP a few days later. “He got up there and hit it about 20 feet to the right.”

Even with that kick fresh on his mind, Hatfield still played for the field goal as time wound down against Arizona State. The Razorbacks converted a fourth-and-1 at the 30, ran the ball a couple more times and had quarterback Mark Calcagni sneak it to line up the ball in the middle of the field. What followed was a 37-yard field goal by Trainor right down the middle with 21 seconds left, giving Arkansas an 18-17 victory.

“I said a little prayer and I kicked it,” Trainor told the UPI. “It was just as good as landing a big hog bass. … I hit it a little under the sweep spot on the ball, but I hit it. I didn’t even see it go through because of the lights not he scoreboard, but I saw it go down.”

Not to be overshadowed by the big kick, Bobby Joe Edmonds turned in a Herculean effort for the Razorbacks. He is who Hatfield called on to get the aforementioned fourth down, plus he caught critical passes on a pair of scoring drives, finishing with 43 yards on seven carries and 93 yards on seven receptions.

Making that performance even more impressive was the fact that Edmonds missed three practices leading up to the game because of the death of his grandmother in a traffic accident.

Dec. 5, 1987 — at Hawaii — W, 38-20

Location: Honolulu, Hawaii

Taking advantage of a rule that allows teams to play an extra regular-season game if one is a road game at Hawaii, the Arkansas football team ended its slate with a trip to Honolulu.

The Razorbacks treated it like a business trip, though, and stayed off the beaches leading up the game — which Ken Hatfield later attributed the victory to.

“I know how hard it is for teams to come over here and play that last game,” Hatfield told the AP. “I told them I was proud of the way they concentrated.”

While the fact that Arkansas won by 18 and Hawaii scored a late touchdown to make it even that close may make it seem like a blowout, it was far from it. The Rainbow Warriors actually scored a touchdown in the third quarter to pull within 17-12 heading into the final quarter.

However, the Razorbacks answered with three straight touchdowns in the span of about eight minutes. Barry Foster and James Rouse had short touchdown runs before quarterback John Bland capped the Arkansas scoring with a 54-yard score.

Rouse finished with 96 yards, giving him 1,004 for the season. He was the Razorbacks’ first 1,000-yard rusher in nearly a decade, with the last being Ben Cowins in 1978.

“Rouse is a great football player,” Hawaii coach Bob Wagner told the AP. “And he decided he didn’t want to get tackled in the fourth quarter.”

It’s also worth noting that legendary safety Steve Atwater had a pair of interceptions in the game.

Dec. 21, 2000 — vs. UNLV — L, 31-14

Location: Las Vegas, Nev. (Las Vegas Bowl)

The Razorbacks were sitting at 4-5 before back-to-back low-scoring wins over No. 13 Mississippi State and No. 24 LSU got them to bowl eligibility. Their reward was a trip to the Las Vegas Bowl and matchup with the hometown team — a UNLV squad led by legendary coach John Robinson that went 7-5 in the regular season.

One of the Rebels’ losses was a 43-40 overtime loss at Ole Miss. Given another chance to take down an SEC team, this time at its home stadium, they didn’t waste it.

Arkansas jumped out to 7-0 and 14-7 leads, but UNLV managed to tie it up with a touchdown late in the second quarter. That was the start of 24 straight points by the Rebels.

They got an efficient performance out of quarterback Jason Thomas (12 of 17 passing for 217 yards and three touchdowns), plus a balanced rushing attack courtesy of Jeremi Rudolph (14 carries for 92 yards) and Kevin Brown (13 carries for 78 yards and one touchdown).

On the flip side, Arkansas quarterback Robby Hampton completed only 18 of 30 passes for 183 yards and two touchdowns, while Brandon Holmes ran for 99 yards on 26 attempts. He averaged just 3.8 yards per carry compared to the 6.3-yard average by the Rudolph/Brown tandem.

Even though it was a bowl game, it very much had a home game feel to it for the Rebels, as their fans stormed the field and tore down the goal posts when time expired.

It was Robinson’s lone bowl appearance in six seasons as UNLV’s head coach. He famously won four Rose Bowls in two separate stints at USC sandwiched around time in the NFL as the Los Angeles Rams’ head coach. He was the Trojans’ offensive coordinator when Arkansas played them in Los Angeles in 1973.

As sad as it may sound to “get revenge” on a team like UNLV, the Razorbacks did just that when they actually hosted the Rebels to start the 2001 season. That game was at War Memorial Stadium and Arkansas won 14-10 with a touchdown by Cedric Cobbs in the closing seconds.

Sept. 17, 2005 — at No. 1 USC — L, 70-17

Location: Los Angeles, Calif.

Considered one of the best college football teams of all-time, it eventually took a historic effort by Vince Young to beat the 2005 Trojans. Unfortunately for the Razorbacks, their only player remotely close to Young’s caliber — Darren McFadden — was a freshman just getting started at the time.

Eventual Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush scored the first two times he touched the ball. He raced 76 yards for the first touchdown of the game and, after Arkansas answered with a Robert Johnson-to-Marcus Monk touchdown, then scored on a 29-yard reception.

The game was effectively over in the first quarter, as USC racked up 246 yards on just eight plays that took only 1:32 off the clock. Half of those plays found the end zone, giving the Trojans a 28-7 lead.

Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart played less than three quarters and completed 18 of 24 passes for 381 yards and four touchdowns, while Bush ran for 125 yards on only eight carries and added another 70 yards on three receptions. LenDale White scored twice on the ground and Dwayne Jarrett scored twice through the air, plus Steve Smith had 129 yards on four receptions.

“This is the best team I have seen,” head coach Houston Nutt said. “They have all the weapons you need or could hope for. They can score so fast, it messes you up.”

By the time the dust settled, USC had compiled 736 yards of offense — the most ever allowed by Arkansas.

“How much more can you ask of your offense? This was even more than we could have pictured,” USC head coach Pete Carroll said afterward. “Arkansas always played such aggressive pass defense, we didn’t think it would happen like this.”

Playing in just their third collegiate game ever, McFadden ran for 88 yards on 13 carries and Felix Jones had 66 yards on 12 carries, plus a 67-yard kickoff return.

The win kept the Trojans at No. 1 in the AP Poll for a 22nd straight week, breaking Miami’s all-time record. They would remain there until losing the legendary Rose Bowl matchup with Texas at the end of the season.

Sept. 8, 2018 — at Colorado State — L, 34-27

Location: Fort Collins, Colo.

It was just his second game at the helm, but Chad Morris first started showing signs he wasn’t cut out for the job during Arkansas’ trip to Fort Collins for a rare road game against a non-Power Five opponent.

A 64-yard catch and run by TJ Hammonds pushed the Razorbacks’ lead to 27-9 midway through the third quarter and they appeared to be on cruise control.

Colorado State answered with a touchdown and two-point conversion, but Arkansas was still in a good spot entering the fourth quarter. Facing a fourth-and-1 at the 50, Morris had the quarter break to figure out what he wanted to do and — despite averaging 6.1 yards per carry and gaining at least one yard on its 48 carries of the game — he opted to punt.

“One thing I didn’t want to do, because they were creating some momentum, I didn’t want to give them a shorter field and allow that momentum to stay with them,” Morris said. “I thought we could pin them deep.

“That was the message there. We did think about it, did talk about it. I thought at the end, the way our defense was playing at that time we could pin them deep.”

That proved to be the wrong decision. Even though the punt pinned the Rams at the 4, they covered 96 yards in nine plays to score a touchdown. They added a field goal with about five minutes left and Izzy Matthews punched it in from 1 yard out for the game-winning touchdown with 8 seconds remaining.

It was the first of four losses to Group of Five teams in Morris’ 22-game tenure.


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